"Maybe i should take today off"
I thought to myself as i stepped up to the starting line of the Endure The Bear 50k trail run. After all i didnt sleep well and even woke up feeling strange due to the altitude. Big Bear Lake is a town at 7600 feet. Todays run is going up to. And this week i had been running less anyway because of some lingering foot injuries. But starting at 7am before the shorter distabce races made this feel more like a long run then a race, not to mention the distance! No one shot of the gate but rather we all found a nice rythm to warmup on the first climb.
It became obvious that no one was here to blow the field away. I ran the first 5k with the lead pack of four guys. One of them was a chatter box but as i was trying to take it easy today i engaged him in a lengthy conversation. Meanwhile the other two guys shot off down the trail. We wondered if those two were just bluffing and when the smart runners would catch up to us, the ones that you dont see until the last 25k when they sail past you like theyre still getting warmed up. But only one guy caught up to us. Somewhere before half way when the chatterbox said something about the altitude getting to him. He dropped the pace and i never saw him till the finish.
Top 5 would be nice.
I was now pacing with a guy who didnt say much at all/ he just maintained a very steady pace. No walking on the uphills and staying in control on the downs. Now thats my style! I tried not to think about the possibility of getting top five today. Only halfway through a 50k and the race hasnt really started. Because from here on out anything can happen.
As good as i felt i was worried that around 40k or more i would bonk. That is, my muscles would sieze up and my will to keep moving would vaporize. I tried to keep the thought out of my head.
Top 3 please?
We climbed up to our last loop and a bag stash where they let us organize our own aid. I packed a few lara bars and some gew. I tried to keep eating and drinking with ample aid stations on the course but the altitude or something was makig it difficult. Its like holding your breath and eating under water. But we were making good progress. Already we caugt up to one of the leaders and dropped him by 25 meters. I spotted another runner catching up to us. Someone i hadnt seen before. I tried not to be nervous and run too fast. Just calm down relax your shoulders and continue. Calm, conserve, continue. Repeat.
And then something happened. With every uphill i was gaining momentum. Just as I passed the steady pacer and moved into second place i caught a glimpse of the leader who we had not seen from the beginning. I knew it! He was bluffing all along. Maybe he was fooling himself... When i caugt up to him he said that he took the first loop way too fast. Why he would give away such advantagous information may seem strange to the outsider, but in the 50k + distances its more of a race against yiurself and sharig the experience with each other is all part of te learning process. For example as we careened down a section of single track he hit a root and fell. After getting back on his feet and lettig me take the lead i informed him that i had already fallen twice today. In part so that he wasnt embarassed and partly because i didnt want him feeling sorry for himself(;
Think not of the future and wht it holds.
As we continued to sail down towards the bottom of the final climb i was thunking about my advantage. He was burned out, literally took a fall, and wouldnt be able to run on the uphill. I on other hand was feeling great! No, thats a lie. But no one drops like i do. I sailed so quicky down the trail that when i startee the climb he was nowhere in site. I passed a lot of walkers and joggers who were still on their first loop or 30k runners trying to get the damn thing over with. I tried not to think of the finish line or i mught slow down. I tried not to think of the pack chasing me or i migt hurry. I tried not to think about he fact that i was the leader! Ah its so satisfying in a long race because as you come up to these 'checkpoints' they yell out your number so someone can jot it down. They would yell out my number, check the sheet, look at my yellow bib which signifies that i am 50k runner(thats rigt, a big dog) and then theyd look at the sheet again and get real excited. Theyd annoujce it over the radio to the finish line and help you refill your wafer in a rush and send you on yiur way wishing yiu the best! It was all very exciting. And finally all the hard work was starting to oay off. The hills, the morning runs, the sweltering hot ones, the trans rockies altitude... The list goes on. I didnt want to get to non chalante bt i knew that none of them could catch me on te uphill. I had to break them there and then coadt down and hope they dont find a second wind. Like a kenyan in the marathon who aticks with the pack till the final third of the race and goes for brokw.
Finally on the downhill i knew i had an advantage bt i had to keep pushing. Just keep moving. Just keep moving. Its eas to forget that despitr the final 5k being mostly downhill, its still 5 kilometers. It doesnt haooen quicly. Its painfully long especially when yiur running on fumes and tryig to kick to your first win! Qnd my left foot middle toe was about to come off. Or it felt like it. Every couple of meters id step just wrong and jump over te moon in a shriek of pain. I tried to ignore it. Remember to smile when you cross the finish line. Stuoid, dont assume this things in the bag. yea but even if you dont win, be sure to smile. Stop talking about the finiah. Ok. Just puah. And have fun. No matter what im gonna have fun. I need to win. I need a win. To make it all make sense. To make people stop trying to tell me how i should be doing it. I need just one. And with that i came out of the forest to a little dirt hill and then the tarmac. 400 meters of pavement to the finish. A straight ahot. I couldnt feel my legs and i just cranked. Screw the hard road im taking this home. I looked behind me because i couodjt believe i was in the lead like this. About to finish. But there was no need. I finished in a course record of 4:31:40 and the next two guys were zzz behind.
After finding a veggie sandwhich and a cup of milk in the 'village' i drove stiffly home. Chai, tennis, and nap time. Feels good to win one.